Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 2)

In part 1 I looked at the possibility of not needing a new coach with better practice habits: 


 In Part 2, I look at (from my experience) on what to look for in a coach.

The GOLDEN RULE in golf instruction is to have a GOOD reason for ANY changes you make.

Just like in Million Dollar Baby when Frankie tells Maggie to repeat the mantra ‘always protect yourself’, golf students (and coaches) should repeat the mantra ‘any change I make is for a good reason.’

Perhaps the largest battle in coming up with new mechanics to improve ballstriking is to not fall into taking style over substance. For the golfer looking for an instructor, it’s best to avoid the instructors that make changes because ‘that’s what Tour Player X does.’

Instead, you want to know what exactly a recommended change will do to the main factors at impact. Speed, face angle, club head path, attack angle and dynamic loft. If the instructor changes something to prevent a bad shot such as a hook, they should be unafraid to explain in detail why that change will alter your impact conditions to prevent a hook.

Don’t be afraid to learn the ‘advanced basics.’

If you want to save time, money and aggravation and find the best teacher for you off the bat, I would advise understanding the following:

· CORRECT ball flight laws
· Read a Trackman/FlightScope club data report.
· The CoM of the club versus the Net Force of the hand path.
· Center of Gravity on a club head
· Vertical Gear Effect
· Horizontal Gear Effect

Understanding these concept will help you better decipher if the instructor is making changes for a good reason or just saying that they are for a good reason. It can also help you determine what swing philosophy you believe is best for your since they still have to adhere to all of these concepts.

If you go into a lesson thinking that the sweet spot on a club is the size of a dime and that the ball curves due to the face angle and starts out due to the path and a steep shaft plane always equals a steep attack angle, then you’re going into the lesson misinformed.

What’s great about the internet is that this information is available on the internet and thorough enough to make it easy to understand and all for free.

Don’t worry about facilities, technology, etc.

I’ve seen plenty of teachers that have state-of-the-art facilities with the latest technology that I wouldn’t take a lesson from them if they paid me to do so and I’ve seen plenty of teachers that are in a beat down, old driving range with no grass and none of the latest gizmos and be able to consistently improve students by more than they ever imagined.

Getting on the best facilities requires networking and often times being at the right place at the right time. However, not all of the excellent facilities are all that great for the instructor. At a top notch facility an instructor may have to pay a steep fee to teach there as well as if they want to purchase a launch monitor or some latest piece of technology they may have to go thru the facility first to see if they will allow them to get one. And I’ve seen some facilities that will want the instructor to buy the launch monitor and if he/she leaves the facilities, it’s now theirs to own. So if an instructor gets the chance to teach at a run down facility that is in an excellent location and won’t charge him a fee for lessons, many will jump at the chance.

Technology is expensive. A Trackman goes for about $25k. The same with Swing Catalyst which I feel is the premier force plate technology. You can go cheaper with other products, but you’re still paying thousands of dollars. If an instructor has a lot of familiarity with Trackman and has great experience as a teacher, the benefits of a launch monitor are diminished because they can usually get a decent idea of what is going on with your swing. Would a Trackman help? Sure. But at that cost it may simply be cost prohibitive for a good instructor that continually improves his students.

Tiger Woods sought out Butch Harmon who was working at a driving range at the time.  Had he judged Butch by his facilities, he may have never played the best golf of his career.

On the flip side, don’t judge an ‘advanced’ book by its cover. 

I think too many golfers fall into one of two categories…they either overvalue technology or the unfairly criticize technology and want nothing to do with it.

I will say this, I really don’t believe you much better by practicing on a Trackman/FlightScope. I think the launch monitors help provide the golfer and instructor with basic information and it helps a golfer who does not understand club data and the ball flight laws to better visualize and eventually understand them.

I think you get better by taking that information and working towards a goal and then utilizing efficient practice (without the launch monitor) and after you get enough reps in with your changes…you can re-measure and re-access.

But for the golfers that are against all of this technology it is likely due to the worry of the instructor being too complicated for you to understand. I have found this to be the case on occasion. However, many instructors are very easy to understand using the technology and have developed a keen sense of how to improve golfers by using the technology and also understanding when not to use it.

For example, here’s a video from Andrew Rice using the Swing Catalyst. His ideas are not difficult at all to understand and could help a golfer with an issue that they cannot see with the human eye.

In the end, results are what counts

Not the facility, not the technology, not the certifications, not their playing credentials, etc. And the end of the day, instructors are judged by how much they improve their golfers.

So, ask for before and after’s of their students. Talk to old students and current students. Focus on students of your handicap. But, the wider variety of golfers the teacher has improved shows greater teaching competence.




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